Earlier this week, our Coordinator of the Learning Community Team, Mark Walked shared about missions misconceptions. He says, “Missionary work is not easy. But sometimes we make missions look even more difficult for ourselves because of misconceptions about what missions is. When we fix our own misconceptions first, we may find ourselves much more fit for missions than we first thought.” Read part 1 here.
Now we continue the discussion...
Mind mistake number two – Missions is for the humanitarian hearts.
Maybe we have decided that being a missionary is a profession, or at least a limited set of professions. So, it is to be left to the professionals. Here is how the logic goes: if we believe that missions is mainly about humanitarianism or poverty relief, then only certain people qualify as missionaries. And there are only so many disaster relief workers, physicians, nurses, or food program managers.
But, do we think this way in our local making-of-disciples at home? Of course not. Where would the church be? If we are thinking strategically about our vocations, almost any job can become a significant point of engagement with the lost where relationships can be built, hospitality shown, the gospel shared, and finally, disciple-making done with those who become followers of Jesus.
We invite those whom we have relationship with. We are connected! And much of that connectedness comes from normal, everyday life. If we think this way about our disciple-making efforts in our home culture, why would we assume it would be different in the effort of foreign missions? In fact, the difference between jobs in missionary contexts and those at home is that in foreign missions, the job will likely be the primary way of getting into the target country. There are so many ways to be a missionary.
Consider contacting the closest Muslim country and apply for a missionary visa. You will most likely be denied. But there are some Arab countries which aggressively recruit Americans with certain professions such as petroleum engineers, physicians, schoolteachers, or even high-end chefs. They’re not looking for hunger-relief project directors or microfinance program administrators or seminary graduates. Missions-minded American Christians with “private-sector” vocations have wide-open doors to some so-called “closed” countries. We are strategically placed to be of great value to the greater body of Christ; so we function as the “part” we are assigned to.
Mind mistake number three – I am not spiritual enough.
“Missionary” is not a rank.
There is nothing in the definition of missions that says there is a spiritual hierarchy among missionary disciple-makers. Missionaries are simply disciple-makers in foreign places. Now, they are certainly different in that they require more resources to do this task, since, in their foreign context with no churches, they face the unique disadvantages of being culturally illiterate and lacking Christian fellowship. However, these disadvantages have nothing to do, necessarily, with relative spiritual maturity. So you can’t use that one.
Some wouldn’t consider missions because it implies that a high degree of spiritual competence is needed to earn the title missionary. And then there’s the natural need for confidence. Suppose a person considering missions thinks, “Fine, I’ve got a skill set that will get me into an unreached country, but I’m am not a spiritual giant. I can’t be a missionary.”
I’d have to say that if there is absolutely no missionary among a people group, then even a minimally competent disciple-maker is substantially better than none at all. You’d be the best disciple-maker in the entire country!
You may have run out of excuses. You may be far more qualified than you think both in terms of spiritual fitness and vocational usefulness for the very specific task of missions. Whether you are still in school and pursuing a “secular” degree or have completed your formal education and are working in the “marketplace,” I hope you can see that your current place in the Earth’s function may not only discredit your notion to avoid missions but may very well be the unique key to unlock the door to your effectiveness as a missionary.
Who knows the limits when we posture our hearts with “Here I am, send me.”
I dare you to pray this way.
Pastor to the Village and to the Vineyard in Beaufort, SC. Prepositioning and development specialist with 30 years in initiating and sustaining compassion and justice projects both nationally and in more than 30 countries abroad, and has been consultant to international NGOs and USAid groups. He has found himself to be comfortable in the uncomfortable areas and regions of conflict, to include Central America, Eastern Europe and Africa. His heart is and has been to establish influential relationships with indigenous people groups, with the goal of promoting growth and health in all areas of life. Mark brings extensive work in team and work-force development, sustainable initiatives to tie the local church to the life of global church. He likes to say - “Compassion gets you there, the Church keeps you there.” He’s “sweetie” to one, “Dad” to three and “Papa” to two. 27 broken bones, somewhere around 500 stitches, 54 countries and owns other numbers that give color to his 52 years.